Hundreds Attend Funeral for Israeli Slain in Stabbing Attack as Manhunt Widens

Itamar Ben Gal, 29, was killed Monday outside Ariel by an Israeli Arab from Jaffa say security forces as their search for his attacker continues

Hundreds attend the funeral for slain Itamar Ben Gal Tuesday, February 2018.
Gil Cohen-Magen

Hundreds of Israelis gathered in the settlement of Har Bracha in the northern West Bank Tuesday for the funeral of Itamar Ben Gal, 29, who was killed Monday in a stabbing attack. Meanwhile, Israeli security forces say the search for the attacker has expanded. Over 300 people attended the funeral.

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Slain Itamar Ben Gal and his wife.
Ben Gal family

Ben Gal was stabbed to death on Monday outside the Israeli city Ariel in the West Bank. The assailant behind the stabbing has been identified as Abd al-Hakim Adel Asi, an Israeli Arab from Jaffa, whose mother lived in Haifa until recently and father is from Nablus.  

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein attended the funeral, as did Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan and Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel.

Mourners called out: “His blood is on your hands” and “we want revenge” during Ariel’s eulogy. 

Rabbi Eliezar Melamed, head of the Har Barcha seminary, eulogized Ben Gal, calling him an inspirational teacher who loved his students. Melamed said that "the strongest form of revenge is to keep building more neighborhoods [in the West Bank] and turn Har Bracha into a city. We did not come to this land to push the Arabs out of their lands, but when they raised their heads to threaten our existence, anyone who wishes to kill will be killed and he who wants to banish [us] will be banished [themselves]."

"God gave us a gift," said Daniel Ben Gal, the victim's father, "and today we say goodbye with a heavy heart. We have no idea how we will continue without you."

Edelstein said at the funeral: “The murderers of Rabbi Raziel Shevach hoped to destroy the settlement at Havat Gilad, but the exact opposite occurred.”

Yossi Dagan, the head of the Shomron Regional Council, called on the government to act to increase deterrence and prevent more terror attacks. “I say from here, from this place, to the despicable murderers and [Palestinian President] Mahmoud Abbas, may his name be erased, at their head: You will never break us.”

“The IDF’s job is to take revenge on the terrorist Palestinian Authority, our job is to strengthen the building of the land of Israel and correct the desecration that happened here yesterday by strengthening the settlement enterprise,” said Dagan in his eulogy.

Israeli soldiers search for Palestinian attacker in the village of Kifl Haris near Ariel settlement, Monday, Feb 5, 2018.
Majdi Mohammed/AP

“We are not the guests here, we are not the suspects here. An entire people has risen up against us. A change in sovereignty, we are the owners hereIt is not one Mohammed, it is a people that lives on its sword against a people that increases the good in the world. They are not partners to this land, they are completely foreign; We have returned home in justice and in mercy. It would be proper for us to cut off this murderous nation,” said Rabbi David Dudkevitch, a rabbi from the nearby settlement of Yitzhar.

“The time of the Temple Mount has come, the time of the people of Israel recognizing the holiness of the land has come, of the holiness of the Mount in building the Temple,” said Ariel in his speech.

“The security forces have many ways to fight terrorism, some things have still not been done, such as expelling the family [of the terrorist] and other things – and the time has come to do them immediately. Not after the next murder but in order to prevent the next murder,” said Ariel.

“We in the government are responsible for both security and building the land of Israel. We don’t need to wait for someone to be murdered for us to build Har Bracha or Havat Gilad We need to say in a clear voice: Between the Jordan [River] and the [Mediterranean] Sea will be one sovereign state, it is the State of Israel and its capital will be a unified Jerusalem. We need to decide the time has come for sovereignty,” said Ariel.

Israeli forces have been searching for Abd al-Hakim Adel Asi near the city of Ariel, the terrorist who stabbed to death Ben-Gal, since Monday afternoon. 

Meanwhile, Ahmed Nasser Jarrer, the head operative responsible for the January murder of Rabbi Raziel Shevach, was killed by Israeli security forces early in a raid Tuesday morning in the West Bank village of Yamun near Jenin, Israeli security forces say.

Clashes erupted in the village between dozens of Palestinians and Israeli forces following the raid. According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, two Palestinians were wounded by rubber bullets while seven Palestinians were hurt from tear gas inhalation.

Manhunt continues

Since Monday evening, forces say the search is now focused on finding intelligence information about Asi in an attempt to understand how he arrived at Ariel.

According to Palestinian reports, Israeli soldiers raided the town of Kifl Haris near Ariel on Monday. Security forces suspect the terrorist fled to the town and have been searching Kifl Haris and other neighboring villages.

The head of the local council of the Kifl Haris, Abd al-Rahim Buzaya, told Haaretz that the army blocked all the entrances to the town, did not allow anyone to leave and confiscated security cameras from the stores in the village. 

The Haifa municipality said that its youth social services department had provided services to Asi for about a year when he was 17 after he had been left homeless. At age 18, Asi moved to Tel Aviv, even though he had been offered a place in a program for at-risk-youth.

The Social Services Ministry said Asi “was known to the social services, homeless and addicted to drugs. For years, attempts were made to help the young man who was abandoned by his parents and who received numerous solutions for housing and rehabilitation from the government, but chose to stop the process every time.”

In a video of the attack, the assailant can be seen getting off of a taxi van, crossing the road and then stabbing Ben Gal, who was waiting for a bus. Ben Gal then flees the scene and the assailant throws his bag on the road, continuing to chase his victim.

Ben Gal was married and had children ranging in ages one to seven. He worked as a teacher at the Bnei Akiva Yeshiva in Givat Shmuel and at the Har Bracha yeshiva. 

“Itamar was a special person. Dynamic, young and refreshing, full of the power of life,” Yoni Hayisraeli, the head of the residents council in Har Bracha told Haaretz. “He dedicated his life to education We here in Har Bracha intend on continuing in his path: To make the place bloom, Samaria, to build homes and enlarge settlement. We will work tirelessly and with all out strength,” said Hayisraeli. 

We send our condolences to his family,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following the attack. “IDF forces are in pursuit of the murderers. We will exact our judgement. These are very difficult moments. The people come together at times like these. I put our faith in the security forces, who are doing an excellent job.”